Top Al Jazeera Network official Wadah Khanfar has said his channel represents the “voice of the voiceless” and would continue to be so, notwithstanding the global economic turmoil that has affected virtually every business sector.
Khanfar said this while intervening in the discussions that followed his keynote address at the “FT Society, Media & Technology Summit 2009” on competition and collaboration in the post-crisis economy at Ritz Carlton yesterday.
The Al Jazeera Network director general insisted that revenues of most channels in the world have suffered a drop and his network is no exception.
Replying to a query from a member of the audience, who felt privatisation of the channel by permitting investments from individual shareholders would boost Al Jazeera revenues, the official said even with private investment, the channel would not compromise on its principled stand on core issues affecting the region’s interests.
The member from the audience pointed out that in Kuwait, liberals could win the elections only because of the privatisation of the television channels there. “Because of privatisation of channels in Kuwait, views of many members of the public could be freely aired during the campaign and as a result, a number of liberals could win the elections,” said the member.
The network official responded by saying his channel is also serving the needy and deserving sections in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine in his present position as the “lone voice of the voiceless”.
He claimed that the Al Jazeera channel had become the most sought after news media among the people of Asian, Middle East and much of North African region.
Khanfar also said that despite financial implications, the channel is providing training and learning opportunities to more than 50 nationalities.
Doha Centre for Media Freedom director general Robert Menard lamented that even essential conditions for the development of media freedom is non-existent in most countries in the region.
Reiterating the necessity of setting up of a proper authority to look into media-related issues, the Doha Centre official said independent laws are essential for the development of media freedom across the region.
“Neither the setting up of free media zones as in the UAE nor training of personnel would help the development of media in the region. What is required most are properly-formulated independent laws,” he argued.
The Doha Centre also came down heavily on the Arab League’s recent bid to control the activities of some television channels in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Regulatory authority ictQatar’s executive director William Fagan and QNB Capital managing director Ray Maurer also spoke at the session.
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